Published On: Tue, Jul 21st, 2020

Merkel’s secret deal with Orban: True cost of £1.6trillion revealed | Politics | News

In marathon talks to secure a huge recovery package for the bloc’s coronavirus-ravaged economy, leaders wanted tough new measures to force member states to abide by their democratic values. Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister Viktor Orban successfully managed to quash the new mechanism using the threat of a veto over the whole aid package and the EU’s next seven-year budget. The EU27 finally agreed that a weighted majority of governments can block payments to a country on rule-of-law grounds. The German Chancellor played an influential role in brokering the compromise as the head of the EU’s rotating presidency. 

Governments agreed on spending plans, including a special fund, to distribute cash to the Continent’s pandemic-stricken regions and industries.

The European Commission will borrow €390 billion on international markets to pay for the aid package, which will be jointly repaid.

Speaking after the deal was struck this morning, Mr Orban said: “Figures are important of course but we’re proud nations. Pride is as important or even more.

“Prior to the negotiations or even during the negotiations there were some attempts to … I can’t say humiliate but at least educate us about our rule of law.

“And we didn’t just manage to get a big package of money but we defended the pride of our nations.”

The strongman said he had made clear “it’s not acceptable that anybody, especially those who inherited the rule of law, criticised us, the freedom fighters, who came from the difficult field of communist times.”

The European Commission has opened Article 7 procedures against both Budapest and Warsaw.

If the investigation finds clear rule of law breaches, the rogue capital could lose their EU voting rights.

During the fraught talks, which started on Friday morning, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is understood to have offered Mr Orban help in resolving his investigation.

Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said other countries had asked for the disciplinary procedures against them to be brought to a close.

Mr Morawiecki’s spokesman boasted his boss had “negotiated the largest ever EU funds for Poland. At the same time, in cooperation with Hungary, arbitrary political mechanisms regarding budget reductions were blocked”.

Mrs Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said: “Hungary has declared itself willing to take all the necessary steps in the Article 7 procedure so that a decision can be reached in the Council.

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European Council President Charles Michel said: “These were of course difficult negotiations in very difficult times for all Europeans.

“We have demonstrated that the magic of the European project works.”

But the acrimony is expected to remain after France and Germany both threatened to walk out of the talks unless they got their way.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte felt the brunt of their anger for attempting to limit the original proposals to distribute €500 billion in grants.

He eventually left Brussels victorious having retained the budget rebate system secured by Margaret Thatcher at an EU summit in 1984.

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